Chris Haston/NBC
Erin Strecker
September 23, 2011 AT 04:30 AM EDT

When we last checked in with the Dunder-Mifflin crew, there was a whole lot of much ado about nothing. When the finale ended last season, we still didn’t know who the new boss would be. Over the summer, we learned James Spader’s character, Robert California, would be the new CEO, after talking Jo (Kathy Bates) out of her own job.

Elephant in the room: Michael Scott was definitely missed tonight. It’s simply not the same show and it’s kind of unfair to compare them because there is just such a gaping hole — and Michael Gary Scott wasn’t brought up at all this half hour, save for Pam joking that Micheal was the father of her baby. I never thought I would be so desperate for a “that’s what she said.” But NBC made the decision to continue without the star so I suppose it went as well as could be expected. It really did feel like a totally different show, though. And if it was a new pilot, I don’t know that I would be coming back. It’ll be interesting to see in the coming weeks if it can carve out a new vibe for itself because right now the show feels like a spinoff of a once-popular program that no one asked for.

And now for the big, spoilery news: With fan hopeful Will Arnett Up All Night-ing, the new boss went to an insider…Andy Bernard. Guess that Cornell degree finally came in handy. Dwight, as everyone imagined, is handling the news wonderfully with twice-daily meditation and eight karate classes per week. Andy gives him a new job: Dwight will be The Enforcer of the office. It’s a lateral move from assistant to the regional manager.  I think Andy is a good choice for the boss position, at least if the only option was an inside promotion. Dwight brought a gun to the office last season, so he’s out permanently, and season 5 taught us it’s more fun to have Jim as a prankster than to be in charge. Darryl didn’t get promoted, but he did get a soda.

The episode must have taken place at least a few months after the finale because — surprise! — both Pam and Angela are pregnant: little pregs and big pregs. And Angela married the gay state Senator — despite Dwight and Angela’s contract expiring, I bet they are still hooking up, so Who’s The Father is a game we can play all season long. My money is on the beet farmer. There’s no way there has been an end to those sexy (?) warehouse trysts.

James Spader got off to an interesting start, as a boss who works in the conference room about half the time and spends his breaks walking around the office before zeroing in on one person for some intense small talk. As Jim explains, “You just hope it’s not you. Yet you hope it is you, too. It’s strange.” Spader’s character is intriguing, and I think it was a smart decision to have him be very un-Michael Scott-like. The comparisons are inevitable, but I’ll have to see more before I can judge Spader’s addition to the cast. So far I’m pretty neutral. He’s fine, but I’m not doubling over in my chair or particularly invested.

There was trouble brewing in the office tonight when Erin and Pam discovered that Robert’s notebook has a two-column list, with half the Office crew on one side and the other half on the other. This leads to the main conflict of the episode: figuring out who was a “winner” and who was a “loser.” When half the team was invited out to lunch with Robert, things got real. Ryan thinks the “losers” shouldn’t be concerned: He’s on their side of the list, and that should be reassuring. It wasn’t.

The episode felt very Office-by-numbers, and I didn’t really laugh out loud, despite some fun hijinks (planking!). The show better pick up if it’s hoping to keep viewers around this season. On the plus side, the writers proved Jim is still a top contender for your Favorite TV Boyfriend with that oh-so-sweet list he dropped at Pam’s desk with the “winners” listed as Pam, Cee Cee and the impending baby and the “losers” being everyone else. It wasn’t just Pam’s hormones. I teared up, too.


— Jim and Pam are having another baby! Seriously, those have got to be the cutest (fictional) kids ever.

— “…And shove it up your butt!”

— What does Robert California think of Andy? “Don’t know, super care.”

— “It’s kind of a medium year for women’s soccer, no?”

— “Don’t be such a right-sider.”

— “I got us three and a half days for Columbus Day.”

— “What do you all think of The Street?”

PopWatchers: What did you think of James Spader? Will you be sticking around for Office shenanigans post-Carell? Was this episode better or worse than you expected?

Read more:

Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski turn baseball feud into a pissing contest

‘The Office’ season finale recap: Who’s the boss?

You May Like